I can remember biting my nails down to the stubs when my 15-year-old daughter went on a mountain climbing expedition in British Columbia, scaling frighteningly high peaks with other equally hardy members of Outward Bound. My nails got a little bit shorter when she later battled the Dumoine River on a whitewater canoe trip. And then again when she eschewed skiing in favour of snowboarding. On moguls. At night. I guess I should be grateful bungee jumping "from the skid of a helicopter into the gaping maw of a bubbling active volcano" isn't on her 'Top 30 Things to Do Before You Hit the Big 3-0' list.
Of course, I want my grown children to know one thing: life is meant to be an adventure, not an endurance test, or a game of mere survival. So one part of me is thrilled when they dare to seize the moment, inviting risk, change, and possible failure into their lives. This is every mother's nightmare, and yet every mother's dream for her children.
Over the years, I tried not to discourage my kids' desire to push the envelope, even when my motherly instincts were on high alert, and all I wanted to do was go back in time, back to a time when they were never out of my sight. But children who choose to colour outside the lines often show a greater than average amount of creativity, imagination, and courage. So, more often than not, I lifted my chin, threw back my shoulders, and learned to applaud their walks on the wild side. Besides, ever-so slightly dangerous sports were a perfect outlet for the adventure-seeking streak in them.
There is now an unprecedented array of activities for thrill seekers - and for people with disabilities, there are plenty of opportunities for experiencing high-challenge sports. According to AccesSport America, whether it's soccer, or skiing, water sports, such as "windsurfing, kayaking, rowing/sculling, outrigger canoeing, surfing, water-skiing, or kite sailing, or rock/wall climbing, tennis, and cycling, the aim is to create higher function and fitness for children and adults of all disabilities through high-challenge sports. Programs are designed to promote each person's highest physical and athletic potential while cultivating social and emotional well-being. They seek to create a community where differences are diminished, blurred and often erased."
As I watched a news report about a ski program for children with Down syndrome, autism, etc., and read about a man with Asperger's who swam across Lake Ontario, and the three men with autism that scaled Wales' highest mountain, it got me thinking about what it takes to climb a mountain, battle raging rapids, or windsurf across the water at full speed.
Aside from the joy and sense of accomplishment they derive from mastering a new skill, adventure seekers of all abilities experience the high of constantly pushing beyond one's supposed limitations. They are living their lives with gusto, and doing it from the heart. Sure, it's a cliche that life is not a dress rehearsal. This is the main event, etc. But people of all abilities just want to be included in this joyride called life. Life is short. So, as for me, I'm kicking up my heels, strapping on my skiis, and paddling through thrilling rapids. Yeee-ha!